Luca VitielloBy: Cora Reilly
I was the boy who killed his first man at eleven.
I was the teenager who crushed his cousin’s throat at seventeen.
I was the man who bathed in his enemies’ blood without a flicker of remorse, who relished in their screams as if it was a fucking Mozart sonata.
Monsters are created, not born.
I was born a monster. Cruelty ran in my veins like poison. It ran in the veins of every Vitiello man, passed on from father to son, an endless spiral of monstrosity.
I was a born monster shaped into an even worse monster by my father’s blade and fists and harsh words.
I was raised to become Capo, to rule without mercy, to dish out brutality without a second thought.
I was raised to break others.
When Aria was given to me in marriage, everyone waited with baited breath to see how fast I’d break her like my father broke his women. How I’d crush her innocence and kindness with the force of my cruelty, with relentless brutality.
Breaking her would have taken little effort. It came naturally to me.
A man born a monster, raised to be a monster, bound to be a monster to become Capo.
I was gladly the monster everyone feared.
Until her. Until Aria.
With her, I didn’t have to cover up my darkness.
Her light shone brighter than my darkness ever could.
With her, I didn’t want to be the monster. I wanted to shield her from that part of my nature.
But I was born a monster. Raised to break others.
Not breaking her would come with a price.
A price a monster like myself shouldn’t risk paying.
LUCA, 9 YEARS OLD
Matteo and I sat at the dining table, our eyes trained on the door, waiting for Mother. The bell for dinner had rung a long time ago.
Our nanny Marianna stood against the wall, glancing toward the clock on the sideboard, then back to us. Father rarely ate with us, but Mother always did—at least dinner, even when she could hardly stand. She was always on time in case Father decided to show up.
Where was she?
Was she sick?
Yesterday she’d looked white, except for the blue and yellow blotches on her face and arms where Father had disciplined her. She often did things wrong. It was difficult not to do wrong with Father. A thing that was okay yesterday could be wrong today. Matteo and I often confused one with the other and got punished as well.
Matteo took his knife and stuck it into the bowl with mashed potato that had stopped steaming before slipping the mash-covered blade into his mouth.
Marianna clucked her tongue. “One day you’ll cut yourself.”
Matteo shoved the knife back into the mash and licked it off again, his chin jutting out stubbornly. “I won’t.”
I pushed my chair back and stood. It wasn’t permitted to get up before dinner was eaten, but Father wasn’t home, so I was the master of the house because Matteo was two years younger than me.
I walked around the table. Marianna made a step in my direction. “Luca, you shouldn’t…” She trailed off as she looked at my face.
I looked like Father. That’s why she was more scared of me than Matteo. That, and because I was going to be Capo. Soon, I’d be the one to punish everyone for doing wrong things.
She didn’t follow me when I walked through the foyer and up the stairs. “Mother? Dinner’s ready.”
No answer. I stepped onto the landing, then approached Mother’s bedroom. The door was ajar. The last time that had happened, I’d found her wailing on her bed, but it was quiet inside. I pushed the door open, swallowing. It was too quiet. Light spilled out of the open bathroom.
Downstairs, I heard Father’s voice. He had arrived home from work. He was probably angry that I wasn’t sitting at the dining room table. I should have gone downstairs and apologized, but my feet carried me toward the light source.
Our bathrooms were white Carrara marble but, for some reason, a pink glow reflected in the room. I stepped into the doorframe and froze. The floor was covered with blood. I’d seen it often enough to recognize it, and its smell, a hint of copper and something sweet, was even sweeter today as it mixed with Mother’s perfume.
My eyes followed the river of blood, then the dried waterfall of red staining the white tub up to a limp arm. The white flesh was parted, giving way to dark red below.